State Roundup, January 3, 2018

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2014 DONATION TO HOGAN CAMP RAISES QUESTIONS: Fenit Nirappil of the Post reports that Maryland chicken farmers were watching the 2014 governor’s race closely when one of the nation’s largest poultry suppliers steered $250,000 to a group funding an ad campaign to support Republican candidate Larry Hogan. The donation from poultry producer Mountaire, reported last week by the Wall Street Journal, has Maryland Democrats accusing Hogan of impropriety as he vies to become the first Republican governor reelected in the state since 1954.

BEER BRAWL COMING: Thinking he could be part of the solution, beer distributor Eric Best served on Comptroller Peter Franchot’s “Reform on Tap” task force that recently recommended sweeping changes to Maryland’s laws regulating breweries. Now Best, vice president of the Maryland Beer Wholesalers Association, is part of a diverse coalition of wholesalers, retailers and public health advocates mobilizing to fight those recommendations in the General Assembly, Michael Dresser writes in the Sun.

GEARING UP FOR SESSION: When the Maryland General Assembly opens next Wednesday, legislators representing southwest Baltimore County — all Democrats — are preparing to confront a variety of issues, including education, healthcare and criminal justice reform, reports Libby Solomon for the Catonsville Times.

DEL. McKAY EYES SUCCESS: In the Hagerstown Herald-Mail’s continuing series of interviews with its delegates to the General Assembly, Tamela Baker’s report features Del. Mike McKay, who, she writes is unusual in that this first-term conservative delegate from far Western Maryland won support from one of the most powerful Democratic senators in the state. He hopes to build on this support this year.

HIGHEST PAID LOBBYISTS: The 14 state lobbying firms that billed over $1 million in the past year grossed over $30 million representing literally hundreds of clients, reports Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter. Not surprisingly, the 10 highest-paid lobbyists which we listed last month as each billing more than $1 million are also members of the top-grossing firms.

FROSH TO HOLD CLEAN AIR HEARING: Last fall, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh (D) was one of several Democratic state officials from around the country who asked the Environmental Protection Agency to hold additional public hearings on the Trump administration’s plan to repeal the Clean Power Plan, President Obama’s signature regulation to reduce power plant emissions. Rebuffed by the EPA, Frosh has decided to hold a hearing of his own on Jan. 11, writes Josh Kurtz in Maryland Matters.

BANKING ON RX POT: Most banks refuse to open accounts for cannabis-related businesses even in states where pot is legal, citing federal laws that outlaw the drug and consider it on par with cocaine and heroin, reports Aaron Gregg in the Post. In Maryland, however, at least one community bank is working with the state’s newly launched medical marijuana industry, offering growers and stores a way to avoid the security concerns and extra costs of a cash-only approach.

O’MALLEY’s PORTRAIT A NO-SHOW: During eight years as governor, Martin O’Malley earned a reputation for tardiness in convening meetings of the Board of Public Works. Delays of 20 to 30 minutes were common. Nearly three years after leaving office, in the same room where the board meets, O’Malley is still running late, reports Michael Dresser in the Sun. This time, however, he’s later than other former governors in having his official portrait painted and hung.

A GOOD RECOVERY: In an op-ed for Maryland Matters, former state Del. Matt Mossburg, who is seeking the Republican nomination for Congress in the 6th District, writes about his addiction recovery and the state’s efforts to address the problem. He writes, “As a recovering opioid addict, I learned the hard way that I could not take a short-cut and medicate my way out of addiction. In the rush to embrace so-called “Medically-Assisted Treatment” to fight the opioid epidemic, let’s not forget that rehabilitation starts with an individual’s commitment to end a deadly habit – and remember that recovery never ends.”

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ELFRETH FUND-RAISER: Democratic state Senate candidate Sarah Elfreth will be raising money this Thursday at an event hosted by the founder of a group closely linked with left-wing billionaire George Soros, blogs Brian Griffith of the conservative blog Red Maryland. That group pushes for members of Congress to hold town hall meetings with their constituents.

GOP SURVEYS: Red Maryland has started to compile surveys with the Republicans in the State House. You can find the first four here. Other responses will be added at the same URL.

DISTRICT 15: Ryan Miner of a Miner Detail updates what is happening on the Democratic side of the District 15 races.

NEW BA CO COUNCIL CHAIR: The Baltimore County Council elected its first African-American chairman last night, John Lee reports for WYPR-FM. The new chairman, Julian Jones, said he wished the day would come when there would be no more “firsts.”

MILLER HEADLINES BAKER FUND-RAISER: Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker continues to rack up establishment endorsements in his bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, writes Josh Kurtz in Maryland Matters. Baker has scheduled a fundraiser for next Tuesday in Baltimore, headlined by state Senate President Mike Miller (D) and House Majority Whip Talmadge Branch (D). Branch has previously endorsed Baker; Miller has not done so publicly.

CARROLL RETIREMENT BENEFITS: The editorial board for the Carroll County Times opines that it hopes the Carroll County Commissioners address their generous retiree benefits in the near future before they begin to tackle the coming year’s budget. The commissioners made plenty of noise over the past few years in asking other agencies to tighten their belts and find efficiencies in their spending. Here is an opportunity for the commissioners to look in the mirror and do exactly that themselves